Southold students document life during a pandemic

The assignment?

Document, on camera, how you and your family are reacting to the global coronavirus pandemic.

The videos, created by students in Southold High School’s broadcasting class, ranged from the emotional to the comedic, each presenting day-in-the-life accounts of this historic moment.

“The news captures adults’ reactions,” said Jason Wesnofske, who co-teaches the class with Jim Stahl. “We thought it was important to understand what our students are feeling, too; how we’re living and surviving through this pandemic. The videos they did were touching and unbelievable.” 

Senior Molly Tuthill embraced the assignment by penning a personal message to her peers in the Class of 2020. It’s both specific to Southold students and applicable to any student who has been counting down to the important milestones of prom, senior skip day and graduation.

“It’s becoming more and more real that we’re not going back,” Ms. Tuthill, 18, said in an interview last Thursday, reacting to news that Gov. Andrew Cuomo ordered NY PAUSE to remain in effect through May 15. “We don’t really know the words to say. We’ve all been saying the same thing for the past month: ‘This is so crazy,’ and talking about the things we’re missing out on. But I feel we should all be coming together instead of letting it break us down.”

In her video message, posted to YouTube, Ms. Tuthill shares her message of unity with her classmates. “We haven’t lost each other,” she said in the video. “There’s a certain solace in knowing that we are all in this together.”

You could call it déjà vu.

High school as Ms. Tuthill knew it was previously upended when Bishop-McGann Mercy High School in Riverhead closed. She was nearing the end of her sophomore year when that news broke.

“I already had this realization that I wasn’t going to get to graduate, or go to prom, with my friends,” she said.

She’s made the best of her two years at Southold. “For her to be integrated into the Southold culture is just unbelievable and how awesome she is to just roll with it,” Mr. Wesnofske said.

Ms. Tuthill said she’s made some of her closest friends at Southold, and going through this is “unimaginable. I’m 0 for 3 on schools,” she added, since her elementary school, Our Lady of Mercy Regional School in Cutchogue, is also shuttered.

Living through this pandemic, while more frightening, is more comforting because she knows she isn’t alone. “When I left Mercy, I felt like I was on my own,” she said. “The great thing about this is everyone’s going through it together.”

If anything, she hopes the message inspires her classmates to not take any moment for granted — even school.

“It’s important for [students] to tell their stories,” Mr. Wesnofske added.

In addition to assignments documenting life during a pandemic, they are also dedicating a portion of their Instagram page, @sohotvnews, to recognizing senior students in a highlight reel of their accomplishments over their high school careers.

Current broadcasting assignments also include recording messages to say thank you to first responders and health care workers on the front lines of the crisis and creating a video for County Executive Steve Bellone’s office on the importance of social distancing, told from a teenager’s perspective.

“They’re super excited for [these videos] and rise to the occasion every time,” Mr. Wesnofske said.